Robert Woolgrave

Until it actually happened, most people joked about the zombie apocalypse. People assumed that when the shit hit the fan, they’d act like the characters in the movies – gathering supplies and finding a safe house, then sitting tight and waiting for the troubles to blow over.

Robert Woolgrave thought that too. And when the world fell apart around him, that was what he did. But the reality of survival has proved to be far more serious.

Robert Woolgrave by Antony White

I’m starting to think I might have got this all wrong. Really fucking wrong. I’ve gone about it all the wrong way. I thought I was so bloody clever to start with, thought I knew what I was doing. I was too quick off the mark. Think I might have fucked everything up.

Fuck the lot of them. That was the attitude I had from the start. Didn’t see any point doing anything else. I had to be selfish, didn’t I? When I’m the only one left, how could it be anything other than every man for himself?

But hindsight is a fucking wonderful thing. If I’m honest, though, I wouldn’t do anything different if I had the time over again. I did what I think pretty much everyone else would have done in the same situation. After it happened I spent some time looking for other survivors, but it was pretty bloody obvious pretty bloody quickly that I was the only one left. I took one of the cars from work and drove around town. I stopped in loads of different places and shouted out, but no one came. I drove right into the middle of the pedestrian area, stopped the car right outside the shopping centre among the corpses and yelled my bloody lungs out, but still no one came. There didn’t seem any point trying after that. If there were other people left alive, surely I’d have found them there.

When the bodies rose again I decided enough was enough. Scariest fucking thing I’d ever seen that was, watching them pick themselves up and start moving around. Worse than watching everyone dying around me last week. Worse than anything I remember from the movies. Completely fucking terrifying.

I didn’t know where to start. I made the office my base. It was a choice between the office and my flat. The other flats in the block were filled with corpses, so it was a no-brainer. I got some of my stuff together, then collected as much food as I could carry in the back of the car. I dumped it all in the office and set about trying to fortify the place, to make it better protected. I work at CarLand, which is a bloody stupid name for what is – what was – one of the biggest and busiest second-hand car lots in the country. Now it’s just a bloody big and bloody quiet car park.

The office was built a couple of years back to replace the wooden shack which used to be here. It’s a two-storey concrete and glass building right in the middle of the lot; a showroom on the ground floor, offices up to. I spent time clearing out all the desks and computers and other crap from the first floor and started trying to make myself comfortable. And that was where I made my first mistake. It was too easy to concentrate on comfort at the expense of everything else. I should have stopped to think.

I took a van and fetched myself some stuff from the furniture store on the other side of the business park: a sofa bed, a couple of easy chairs, a table and some other odds and ends. Nearly crippled myself getting that bloody lot up the stairs. Then I started to get greedy. By the fourth day it was looking more and more likely I was going to be here for the long haul so I made another trip out for food and drink. I stopped at the electrical superstore on the way back and took as much as I could carry, planning to keep myself occupied with phones, movies, music and games. I didn’t feel bad taking the stuff. Anyone would have done the same.

For a couple of days I was comfortable and I felt safe. Thought I was living a life of bloody luxury, I did. Space, quiet, comfort and nothing to do except eat, drink, listen, watch and play. After a while I stopped watching films. It didn’t feel right. They left me feeling empty and they reminded me of how everything used to be. I found myself some porn (nothing too strong) but I couldn’t bring myself to watch it. I couldn’t get turned on watching women who I knew were dead. And music… I stopped listening to music too. I didn’t like wearing headphones, didn’t like not being able to hear what was going on around me even though there was nothing. Playing games, on the other hand, seemed to help. I couldn’t concentrate on anything too taxing, but I got a bigger kick than ever out of fighting games. Taking out my frustrations on the screen really seemed to help.

Things started to go wrong last Saturday morning. I didn’t think I’d been making much noise, but I obviously had and it was having an effect on the bodies outside the office. The bloody things wouldn’t leave me alone. They hadn’t seemed interested in me at first, but that changed. Christ, they only had to see me moving in the window and they’d turn and start walking towards the building. Bloody things. They were slow moving and weak and it didn’t take much effort to get rid of them, but there were more and more of them coming all the time. It didn’t matter what I did or didn’t do, once they knew I was there, they just kept on coming. I had to do something about them. I couldn’t stand them being so close.

I spent all day Monday trying to make the office even more secure. I went outside with as many sets of keys as I could find and I started moving cars closer to the building. I took my time and planned it properly. I parked as many cars as I could right around the outside of the building, then moved another layer up and parked them close to the first, then another layer after that. It took me from ten in the morning until late afternoon to get the job done but it felt worth it to make the place secure. I left myself a way to get in and out if I have to and I also left a couple of cars ready just in case I have to get away quick. Bottom line is, though, none of those fuckers are going to get me while I’m in here.

Something happened when I was moving the cars on Monday that really bothered me. I had to start getting aggressive with some of the bodies. It worked both ways, because those fucking things started getting aggressive with me first. I couldn’t believe it – one of the fuckers just went for me. No provocation or anything. If it had been any stronger then I’d have been in real trouble, but as it was I just threw it to the ground and carried on. When I was inside the cars they were less of a problem. When I was on foot, though, things got a little nastier. By the end of the day I had to start getting violent to keep them under control and I didn’t enjoy that at all. I had to do things I really wasn’t comfortable with. I mean, I had kids and old ladies coming at me for Christ’s sake. Fucking hell, at one point I was battering a little kid around the head with a jack from the boot of one of the cars and I thought, what the fuck am I doing? I had to do it, though. I had no choice. It was get them before they get me – kill them or be killed by them. After a while I gave up trying to manhandle them and I started wiping them out with the cars. I feel bad about it now, but there was a part of me that actually enjoyed it at the time. Fucking hell, by the end of the day I was chasing the fucking things round the car park, running them down and giving myself points for killing them with style or at speed, better than any game. Crazy really. It was only when I got up next morning and saw what I’d done that I realised how dumb I’d been. I must have killed more than fifty of the damn things. There was blood, guts and bits of bodies everywhere.

But there were still more coming.

I don’t feel so good today. I’m scared. It’s late on Wednesday night and there are hundreds of them outside again. You’d think they’d have seen what happened here and given up. There’s no way they can get to me, but they’re just relentless. They stand outside, edging ever closer, watching and waiting for me to come out. I’ve tried blocking up the windows, but it doesn’t make any difference because I know they’re still there, and they know I’m here. I’ve started thinking some bloody crazy thoughts too. Are they here for revenge?

Christ I feel sick.

Don’t know whether it’s something I’ve eaten or just nerves, but my guts are bad. I’ve lived on crap since this started – mostly chocolate, crisps, biscuits and other snacks because that’s easiest. I haven’t had bread or anything fresh for days. It’s probably nothing, just adrenalin, but it’s made me think. I stuck my head out of the door for a second this afternoon and all I could hear was thousands of flies buzzing and I started thinking about the germs and diseases that are out there. I’ve probably been breathing them in for days now. For Christ’s sake, the whole fucking car lot is packed with human remains.

This building is starting to smell. It’s starting to smell worse than outside. I can’t stand it any longer. I’ve had diarrhoea since yesterday morning and I can’t flush any of the toilets now. They’re all backed-up with shit and I don’t know what to do about it. I don’t have any spare water or bleach. I should have been better prepared.

It’s dark now, and there’s nothing to do but sit here and wait for morning. I’m scared. I don’t want to play games anymore. I don’t want to be distracted. I want to know what’s happening around me so that I’m ready for anything, but at the same time I don’t want to look. I don’t want to see the dead outside. I can’t sleep. I can’t even bring myself to shut my eyes now, and even if I could, the pain in my guts would keep me awake.

Those fucking things just won’t go. They’re waiting for me. They try to climb over the cars to get closer to me but they can’t do it. They don’t have the coordination or the strength today, but tomorrow they might.

I’ll stay here for as long as I can but I know I’ll have to try and find some medicine and proper food soon. Maybe I’ll try and get away in the morning. Maybe I’ll wait another couple of days. Maybe I’ll never get out.

I’ve gone and built myself a fucking prison.



Autumn: The London Trilogy omnibus edition